Latest News & Information on Tibet

Features latest news & information on Tibet and H. H. the Dalai Lama.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Hope

It was a Saturday evening. It was quite late and I was dying for a cigarette. I had to search a while to find an open shop, as Dharamsala’s Kalachakra-bound citizens were yet to return. I walked up to what seemed to be a new grocery store and was pleasantly surprised to see an elderly Tibetan behind the counter. I purchased my merchandise and indulged in some small talk with the storekeeper.

“So what is the latest?” the elderly Tibetan asked. “We might soon have to return to Tibet and you, my old man might need to sell your things on discount”, I replied. “Its all due to the mercy of Chenrezig,” the man in reply closed his eyes and folded his hands. “It is an optimistic time,” he murmured as I bid good night.

A little too soon? For then the news came of Lobsang Dhondup’s execution.

Lobsang Dhondup was executed recently by the Chinese on flimsy charges. To date, neither the court nor the Beijing authorities have been able to substantiate or admit to the real reason behind this cruel act.

Lobsang Dhondup was probably shot in the back of his head at point blank range, to make the execution efficient and the result a surety. Probably his passing away was quick. Maybe it was painless. But I am sure it was terrifying. A close friend asked, “I wonder what was on his mind, right at that moment?” I shudder to think.

What would be going through the mind of a young man, condemned to die for something he did not do. Condemned to death for the sake of an occupying forces’ politics and power games. Sure, he is far from the first Tibetan to die for such reasons, and even further from being the first ever person to die in this manner, but when it is your life that is forfeit, I am sure that those facts are not the ones foremost in your mind at the time. Was he wondering why was he being executed? Why he was the one picked? Was he a victim of the new leadership in Beijing, wanting to send a clear political message?

What would it feel like to walk across the killing ground to the last place you would stand in this life? Or did they just come into his cell and end it there? Buddhism teaches the cycle of life, the turning path of our lifetimes, but as one not extensively trained in the high reaches of monastic disciplines, how much fear was there during his last moments, hours, days? Or in the end, did he see himself dying for his country and proud to offer literally everything he had for this cause?

The truth? Well, of course we will never know, or come anywhere close to knowing. I wondered about simpler things. Lobsang Dhondup’s young life was cut short by the Chinese - he was but 28 years of age He was just few months older than me, living in a country that I have never yet seen. What dreams might he have had? What plans? Where did he think his future was going to take him? To the gallows or to a Free Tibet? To a life later in exile, or a quiet existence watching his family grow up around him? Had he hoped to become a successful businessman, and if so, where would that have led him? Or was he content living each day as it came?

I have lived my life in exile, aware of the Tibetan situation since young. My hopes, my dreams; they may be similar to those of my friends’ here around me, they may not. How different are they though to those of my brethren living inside my unseen homeland? I have an education, many of them do not. I can speak out about what I think without fear of ending up incarcerated, or dead like Lobsang Dhondup. Many within Tibet are politically active, like us here, but run far greater risks. So how do our dreams, our thoughts, our lives differ? Do we see the same futures, the same dreams, but through different eyes? Or do we see different dreams and a different future through the same eyes? Will we meet in our current lifetimes? Will we ever get the chance to compare our thoughts, our hopes, our passions?

I have to believe that we will. I have to believe that all that we fight for, all the suffering that so many have endured, all that so many have sacrificed, will achieve what we aim for in the end, in the not too far distant future. I want to know that lives given have not been used up and thrown away, but are pebbles on the road to freedom. I believe that all the work that I, that my friends, that so many around the world have contributed, will succeed in the end. That the efforts, dreams, and deeds of thousands will prevail, that sanity and peace will return to the high plateau and deep river valleys. And that I will see my homeland, that I will meet my family, my unknown cousins, and my yet un-met friends. That one day we will sit together in the high, rocky mountains around my father’s village and discuss our thoughts, our dreams, and our new plans for the future.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tears of Regret Flow Uncontrollably

When a girl of fifteen is not sent to school but is given over to the milk
When a charming, slender girl does not marry but is used by a swindler;
When a beautiful bride does not fit into her new household and is abandoned
to roam in unknown, distant lands-
Oh - how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When a white-haired old man does not know the alphabet but recites mantras
for this life and the next;
When a white-toothed young man does not know the four vowels but adorns his
chest with gold ornaments;
When a pure-hearted monk does not know how to punctuate sentences but
conducts rituals in the home-
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When the children of farmers and herders aren't sent to school but spend
their time with flocks of goats and sheep;
When the schoolyard is empty of students but full of grass and weeds;
When the classroom walls crumble in the rain while the teacher revels in
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When the field of culture is trampled under the hooves of those who
disparage it;
When the flower garden of education withers in the drought of
When the peachlike face of literature is infested by swarms of ravenous
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When the broad heart of the snowy mountains is covered with filthy dust and
When the courageous peaks of the rocky mountains are split apart by
black-beaked crows;
When the wisdom of the grassy mountains' fertile slopes is undermined by
thousands of gophers-
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When the stallion of progress and knowledge is bound tightly by the hobbles
of domination;
When the white yak of freedom is chained by the nose to a hybrid yak-cow and
made subservient to her;
When the sheep of peace and happiness are exploited for profit and sheared
again and again-
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When incomparable geniuses wander as beggars in foreign lands;
When unprecedented idiots sit upon the thrones of brilliant scholars;
When savages control the wise and knowledgeable-
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

When the pure river of an untainted history is contaminated with the salty
water of distortion;
When the unblemished vow on the face of a stone monument is defaced with
one-sided views;
When the incomparably white pool of the five sciences becomes the playground
for lying frogs-
Oh-how tears of regret flow uncontrollably from my eyes!

-- Lhagyal Tsering

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Invasion of Tibet and fall of Chamdo

On October 1, 1949 the People’s Republic of China was founded. Soon after, Radio Beijing began to announce that “the People’s Liberation Army must liberate all Chinese territories, including Tibet, Xinjiang, Hainan and Taiwan.” In response, the Tibetan Foreign Office wrote to Mao Zedong on November 2, 1949 to say that “Tibet has from the earliest times up to now been an independent country whose political administration had never been taken over by any foreign country; and Tibet also defended her own territories from foreign invasions.”(4) The Foreign Office letter asked for direct negotiations for the return of Tibetan territories annexed by China’s earlier governments. Copies of this letter were sent to the Government of India, Great Britain and United States. But these governments advised Tibet to enter into direct negotiations with China as any other course of action might provoke military retaliation.

In the meanwhile, the PLA marched into eastern Tibet and circulated a ten-point document, asking Tibetans to cooperate with China in “liberating” Tibet from foreign imperialists. This struck as a curious statement to the Tibetan government who knew that there were fewer than ten foreigners in the country. It responded by making a series of radio announcements stating that there were no foreign imperialists on Tibetan soil, that Tibet had never been part of China, and that if China invaded Tibet just as big insects eat small ones, Tibet would fight back even if it were reduced to the female population.(5)

At the same time, the Tibetan government decided to send a delegation, consisting of two senior officials—Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa and Tsechag Thubten Gyalpo—and five assistants to negotiate with the PRC in a third country, possibly the USSR, Singapore or Hong Kong. China suggested Hong Kong as the venue, to which the Tibetan government agreed and directed its delegation to discuss the Foreign Office letter to Chairman Mao Zedong and the threatening Chinese radio announcements about an imminent “liberation of Tibet”. The government also instructed the delegation to secure the Chinese assurance that the territorial integrity of Tibet would not be violated, and to drive home the point that Tibet would not tolerate Chinese interference.(6)

On March 7, 1950 the delegates reached Kalimpong en route to Delhi. On reaching Delhi, they ran into an unforeseen problem: the British would not issue them the visas to travel to Hong Kong, probably because they did not want to antagonise China as the visa would have to be stamped on the passport issued by the Tibetan government. Thus, in June 1950 the Tibetan government instructed its delegates to hold negotiations in Delhi. The Chinese did not want this and suggested that the Tibetans should come to Beijing after a preliminary round of talks in Delhi with their new Ambassador to India.(7)

In the course of the negotiation, the Chinese Ambassador, Yuan Zhong Xian, demanded that the Tibetan delegation accept a three-point proposal: i) Tibet should be recognised as part of China ii) Tibetan national defence will be handled by China; iii) Tibet’s political and trade relations with foreign countries must be conducted through China. They were then to proceed to Beijing in confirmation of the “agreement”.

The Tibetan government instructed the delegates to reject the Chinese proposal, particularly the first point. So the negotiation was suspended. By then China had already started its military offensive on Chamdo, eastern Tibet’s provincial capital. It happened on October 7, 1950 when Commanders Wang Qimei and Zhang Guohua led 40,000 PLA troops from the South-West Military Region in an eight-pronged attack on Chamdo. The Tibetan force, numbering 8,000 troops, engaged the PLA troops in fierce battles. By October 19 the Tibetans had fought 21 battles and lost over 5,700 men.(8) Chamdo fell to the PLA and Kalon Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, provincial governor, was captured.(9)

The Chinese aggression came as a rude shock to India. In a sharp note to Beijing on October 26, 1950, the Indian Foreign Ministry wrote: “Now that the invasion of Tibet has been ordered by Chinese government, peaceful negotiations can hardly be synchronised with it and there naturally will be fear on the part of Tibetans that negotiations will be under duress. In the present context of world events, invasion by Chinese troops of Tibet cannot but be regarded as deplorable and in the considered judgement of the Government of India, not in the interest of China or peace.”(10) A number of countries, including the United States and Britain, expressed their support for the Indian position.

Back in Lhasa, the Tibetan Government decided to secure the UN mediation on Tibet’s behalf. It wrote to the UN Secretary General on November 11, 1950, appealing for the world body’s intervention. The letter said, in part: “Tibet recognises that it is in no position to resist the Chinese advance. It is thus that it agreed to negotiate on friendly terms with the Chinese Government...Though there is little hope that a nation dedicated to peace will be able to resist the brutal effort of men trained to war, we understand that the United Nations has decided to stop aggression wherever it takes place.”(11)

The Tibetan National Assembly convened an emergency session and requested the Dalai Lama, only fifteen (12) at that time, to assume full authority as head of state and move his government temporarily to Dromo (Yatung), near the Indian border, so that he would be out of personal danger. At the same time the Tibetan Foreign Office issued the following statement: “Tibet is united as one man behind the Dalai Lama who has taken over full powers ... We have appealed to the world for peaceful intervention in (the face of this) clear case of unprovoked aggression.”(13)

On November 17, 1950 the Dalai Lama assumed power at a formal ceremony and wrote to Mao Zedong: “The relationship between Tibet and China has deteriorated during my minority. Now that I have taken responsibility, I wish to revive the past harmonious relationship between us.” The Dalai Lama asked Mao to release the Tibetan prisoners of war and withdraw Chinese troops from the Tibetan territory.(14)

On that very day El Salvador formally asked that the aggression against Tibet be put on the UN General Assembly agenda. However, the issue was not discussed in the UN General Assembly at the suggestion of the Indian delegation who asserted that a peaceful solution which was mutually advantageous to Tibet, India and China could be reached between the parties concerned. A second letter by the Tibetan delegation to the United Nations on December 8, 1950 did not change the situation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Between homeland and exile

An exile's return to his homeland is about the encounter between exile and homeland; it affords an opportunity to look at exile.

For the first time since the Chinese occupation, Tibet opened to the world in the early'80s. in the first year, probably more Westerner set foot in Tibet than had ever in all its history. For the first time after 30 years, relatives inside and outside Tibet were meeting. Like the Berlin Wall coming down, it was a very dramatic and exciting time.

I was a student in America then. I remember the small group of Tibetans gathering at he Office of Tibet to listen with great emotion to those who returned from visiting Tibet recounts their experience. Tibet was hardly ever in the media then, in the United States or anywhere else.

For me, awareness of who I was a Tibetan and an exile came relatively late, when I was in college in America. I had spent most of my childhood, most of 10 years, ensconced in a Presbyterian boarding school in Kalimpong near Darjeeling Dr. Graham's Homes had been founder for orphans of Anglo-Indians, so I grew up mainly with Anglo-Indians, but also Bhutanese, Sikkimese, other Tibetans, Nepalis, Nagas, Lushai, Khansi.

In college in America I read vociferously books about Tibet, and studied some Buddhist philosophy with Robert Thurman. It was with such bookish knowledge that I discovered and began to articulate my identity as a Tibetan. Sheer passion marked my knowledge for Tibet, albeit from a distance. And passion and distance often defines the exile.

In 1985, a few years after I returned to Kathmandu, my chance came to go to Tibet. Ironically, it was as a tour guide, an appointment that seemed to mock the gravitas of my exile identity.

At the outset of my trip an incident occurred that was to foreshadow my later journey to my hometown. I met my first Tibetans at a temple in Chengdu where we were sighseeing before flying into Tibet. There were crowds of Chinese tourists. Since religion had been banned for three or four decades, the Buddhist temple was an exotica. Out of the milling crowds emerged a Tibetan family. They were wearing Tibetan clothing, the woment's braided hair sported turquoise and amber. They were obviously exotic to the Chinese, who were following them. Someone from my group said, "Wow! Who are they?"

Excited, I approached them. To my utter surprise, they spoke to me in Chinese. I tried again they spoke back in Chinese. Finally, the man acknowledged in Tibetan that they were Tibetan, and then reverted to Chinese. I walked away disappointed, disturbed.

In 1987 I finally visited my hometown, Gyelthang. It is farflung in the southeastern tip of the Tibetan plateau, 1,600 km from Lhasa. Like most of Kham, it is now part of a Chinese province, Yunnan. It is close to Chinese lands, near the homes of numerous ethnic groups called "minority nationalities" by the Chinese. I didn't know much about Gyelthang for I had grown up in exile. The little I knew of it was from my mother- my father having died somewhat young- and my fellow Gyelthang people, who made up my community in exile.

I was going in with a certain notion of Tibet based on an image in exiles' minds. This identity largely subscribed to a hegemonic central Tibetan concept of the Tibetan nation. Thus, even we eastern Tibetans were likely to look to Lhasa, its mountains, monasteries, its lakes and rivers, central Tibetan songs and language, as constituting the components of Tibetan hood.

While the idea of a distinct Tibetan civilisation is powerful and alive, that of Tibet as a perfectly homogenised pan- Tibetan entity took root in exile, primarily a political condition. The identity I had come to assume was, in a sense, generic, shaped by a new kind of nationalism forged in exile.

This was fine and perhaps inevitable, except those outlying, marginal places like Gyelthang had peculiarities that didn't fit into this picture. Thus, aspects of our regional idiosyncrasies and our "local" history were given short shrift.

What the exile Tibetan encounters and reacts to most strongly when he or she sets foot in Tibet is the phenomena of sinicisation, which is all- pervasive- precisely because it shakes up some of our assumptions and idealisations. These features of sinicisation are encountered as part of the daily fabric of life by the Tibetans who took my mediocre Tibetan to be the Lhasa dialect. In the prefectural capital where people held secular jobs, they tended to speak more Chinese than they did Tibetan.

It was evident why that was so. The vehicle of sinicisation was potent, all pervasive, embodied in the institutions of State and society, of the affairs of the public domain, the work culture, schools, post offices, bus stations and bus timings. Because the vocabulary of everyday reality was in Chinese, even those who were fluent in Gyelthang language, more fluent than I was reverted or resorted to Chinese. As for the Gyelthang language, it had been relegated to the hearth, tucked within domestic confines, a reflection of a culture on the retreat.

During my three-month stay, I witnessed the 30th anniversary of the founding of the autonomous prefecture of Dechen, of which my hometown was capital. There was pageantry, a parade of troops in their full regalia; there were horse races, fireworks, openings of new buildings- some in exaggeratedly Tibetan style. Crowds came to the parade, to hear the speeches, to see the fireworks and the balloons, to see the props in technicolour. Exhibits were displayed to mark the progress and the targets to achieve by the year 2000.

I was unnerved by the seeming willingness of the Gyelthang and Dechen folk of partake. Could this be real? Tibetans celebrating the Chinese consolidation of their presence in Tibet? Could they not see through the bluff, I wondered. On the other hand, they seemed-light-hearted. Was it just a mela, a tamasha, as it might be called in India, a happening of no significance?

On my last night, at a family dinner, one of my cousins handed me a brightly wrapped package. It was from the head of the People's Association. It was a new picture book of Gyelthang released the day before, and pamphlets in Chinese about the region's progress. My cousin hesitated a moment. Then he said, "Don't mix with the wrong people in India."

I felt the blood to my face. When would they get it? I would return the package, make my point in front of them all. My gentle cousin, only the messenger, seemed to have no inkling of how I felt. It dawned on me that we belonged no to different systems but to different enclosures, entirely different realities. The chasm between us was immense. I was from the outside- wherever Tibetan exiles lived. China was the adversary, a cosmic one, a central point of reference in our self-definition, built on the premise of exile. The sad truth was that the occupation of Tibet, the determining reality for us, lay outside the angle of vision of my cousin and many Gyelthang folk. It was not that they were pro-china or anti-Tibet; rather, the political discourse that defined us did not have the same significance or simply registered minisculely for them.

Not surprisingly, where I felt most at home was where the real bastion of Tibetan culture lay, at the monastery. It was the clergy that had fallen drastically from grace, it was monks who had suffered the greatest violation of their worldview. The sinicisation I encountered made me decry the loss and the betrayal of things Tibetan. I had become the tradition-holder or defender of it, notwithstanding the shaky grounds of this position. On my first visit there, an uneasy quiet reigned. A few pilgrims went about hesitantly, as if unsure of the rituals of daily worship. The monks seemed furtive, like victims, or like fugitives on the run.

Like many in Tibet, Gyelthang's monastery had been razed to rubble during the state-endorsed hooliganism called the "Cultural Revolution". Lamas and monks had been tortured, killed; there had been wholesale destruction and looting of religious paraphernalia. Then in the '80s, following the touted religious freedom that came with Deng Xiaoping's reforms, the hill-site had come to life with the reconstruction of the monastery; there were now several hundred monks.

I met a monk whose passionate hatred of the Chinese authorities had nothing in common with the pasture of reasonableness the office-going Tibetans inhabited. "Our Gyelthang youth are blind. Because they read and write a little Chinese, they think they know it all. They think us fools".

I had met Thupten and his relatives en route to Buddhist sites in India. From his foray south of the Himalaya, Thupten had glimpsed in exile a radiant vision of Tibet. A vision of Tibet that seemed able to rebut the Chinese chauvinistic view of it. In exile, he had found Tibetan Buddhist tradition alive and flourishing and, most of all, spread worldwide. There were religious initiations, grand monasteries, a self-confident clergy, dharma books, foreigners clad in monks' robes, and foreign statesmen saluting the Dalai Lama. Millions followed the dharma, and there were lamas and dharma centres all around the world. The spirit of Buddhism outside Tibet was more powerful than anything he had ever seen. Thupten had carried these impressions back to the small world at the edge of the Tibetan plateau, to continue his uphill battle with the "enemies of the faith".

The enclosure of Gyelthang jolted me into seeing who the seeker was. It was there, when everything seemed upside down, that I saw how much "I " was made up of my own yearnings and sense of loss. I believed I could be alive only as a Tibetan exile, right to my bones, blood, senses. To be Tibetan, to be against the Chinese, the cosmic nemesis; to be Tibetan Buddhist, not American or European; I could partake of other worlds, yet remain separate; it was an advantageous, wonderfully elastic, identity, allowing more than one way of being.

I realised that much of my indignation and anger came because my experience in Gyelthang shattered the idealised notions of Tibet I had held. Doubly so because I myself did not meet this high idealisation. Only when I allowed it, did I see that their sinicisation and loss of tradition were aspects of their daily life, not ideological, part of the normalcy of their own enclosure. Theirs was not a pro-China position, as mine was not a disavowal of Tibetan culture. In both enclosures, inside Tibet and outside, profound changes had occurred, the claim of different nuclei, modernisation, the world itself. Forty years is a short time historically, a long time in anyone's life.

Kesang Tsetan has authored a book on his travel to Tibet. He has also written the script for Tsering Rhitar's Nepalese feature film, Mukundo

Aspects of Autonomy: a Study in Autonomous Arrangements Around the World

How do you retain power under autonomous arrangements? US attorney Eva Herzer explores some formulas in international law

For over a decade, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has publicly stated that he seeks to negotiate "genuine self-government" or "genuine self-rule" for Tibet within the context of the Chinese state. His Holiness's position responds to the late Deng Xiaopeng's comments that everything is negotiable except for independence and takes into account the fact that time is running out for the Tibetan culture's survival in occupied Tibet. No doubt, His Holiness's decision to seek a resolution short of independence is strongly influenced by His assessment of the relative political and economic strengths of China and Tibet and the international community's long-standing failure to stand up for Tibetan independence.

Self-government of a people (such as the Tibetans) within the framework of a sovereign state is generally referred to as autonomy. Few political terms evoke stronger and more heated reactions in the Tibetan community than that of autonomy. This, of course, is not a surprise given that Tibetans have suffered unspeakable human rights violations and cultural destruction in the so-called Tibet "Autonomous" Region (TAR), where Tibetans have minimal rights to govern themselves in theory and virtually none in practice. On the other hand, the self-government or autonomy proposed by His Holiness, in His 1988 Strasbourg statement, provides for Tibetan control over most matters affecting Tibet. If autonomy can take such different forms, what then is autonomy?

Despite the fact that well over 40 autonomous arrangements have been created in the 20th century, the term "autonomy" has no generally accepted meaning in international law. One autonomous arrangement can be completely different from the next. Autonomy is a vague, if not meaningless, concept unless and until it is defined on a case-by-case basis as a particular distribution of governmental powers between two governments: The government of the people who seek self-government, usually referred to as the autonomous government, and the government of the sovereign or larger state, which I will refer to as the state government. Some of the major governmental powers which must be addressed in the drafting of an autonomous agreement are the power to control cultural affairs, education, the official language, national symbols, health and social services, the economy, taxation, natural resources, environmental policy, transportation, postal and telecommunication systems, law and order, administration of justice, currency and monetary policy, determination of citizenship, foreign policy, defense, passports and visas, customs, border control and immigration, as well as political rights.

By the same token, taking a position for or against autonomy is somewhat meaningless, unless the autonomy proposed or opposed is specifically defined as a particular distribution of governmental powers. This is because "autonomy" can provide for an allocation of power to the autonomous government that approaches virtual independence, as it does in the case of Liechtenstein and Andorra, or virtual subjugation, as it does in the case of the present Tibet Autonomous Region.

The International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet (ICLT) recently prepared a study of 34 autonomous arrangements and analysed the distribution of governmental powers in each case. To avoid any misunderstandings, I would like to make it clear that this study does not suggest that Tibetans should adopt one model of autonomy over another, for each situation is historically, politically, socially, economically and culturally unique. Nor does ICLT or I take the position that Tibetans should attempt to negotiate an autonomous arrangement with China, rather than pursue independence or other options. Rather, the intent of the study is to illustrate how autonomy has been practiced in various situations around the world, to show what distributions of governmental powers are possible and importantly to point out various issues which must be addressed if an autonomous arrangement is to be successful.

Tibetans, as a distinct people, have the right to self-determination, that is to decide on their future political, social and economic status. Pursuant to that right, Tibetans are entitled to choose a particular form of autonomy, independence, or they could theoretically opt to become fully integrated into the Chinese state. What options the Tibetans choose and how they make that choice, whether through their elected officials in exile, by decision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or through a popular referendum, is up to them. It is important to note that the option is not between self-determination and independence, or between self-determination and autonomy (sometimes referred to as the "Middle Way" by His Holiness). Rather the option is between various forms of autonomy, independence or, theoretically, integration into the Chinese state. The right to self-determination is the legal basis for these options, not an option in itself. As Tibetans are well aware, unfortunately, rights under international law are not uniformly enforced and appropriate enforcement mechanisms have yet to be put in place. Thus even though Tibetans have the legal right to choose their future political status, this choice is restrained by the political realities of China and Tibet and by the political will of the international community.

Currently the Tibetan government is examining the option of some form of autonomy for Tibet and hopes to engage the Chinese government in negotiations in this regard. It is therefore important for Tibetans to inform themselves and to consider the various possibilities for division of governmental powers in an autonomous arrangement for self-governance. The following brief summary highlights the major governmental powers which must be considered in negotiating an autonomous arrangement and it highlights how other peoples have resolved the allocation of these powers.


Cultural preservation lies at the foundation of almost every struggle for self-determination. The power over cultural affairs is the only governmental function over which each and every autonomous government studied has control. In some cases, however, such as the TAR and Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, this control is a matter of right, but not of practice.


In the great majority of the situations studied, education is entirely controlled by the autonomous government. Most autonomous governments insist on controlling education in order to guarantee survival of the native language and the cultural identity of their people. For example, the Swedish speaking Aland Islands, an autonomous province of Finland under the 1991 Act of Autonomy for Aland, administer their own schools, where instruction is in Swedish, with English as a second language. Finish is offered as an optional language.

Several examples underscore the importance of providing sufficient second language instruction, especially in remote regions, so as to open post-secondary school educational opportunities to students. In Micronesia, an associated state of the United States (US) under the 1982 Compact of Free Association, education is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the autonomous government. Students are taught in each of the applicable Micronesian languages and English is required as a second language. Due to the geographical isolation and the low quality of some of the English instruction, however, many Micronesians graduate without proficiency in English. Because relatively few books are available in the Micronesian languages, educational levels remain low and students are not adequately prepared for a college education, which is only available abroad.

The TAR is one of the few examples where the autonomous government does not have ultimate control over education. It may plan and implement educational programs but does not have ultimate control since all such programs must comply with Chinese state guidelines.


Language is a key component of cultural identity and control over language is often critical to effective self-governance. In some autonomous arrangements the state's language is the sole official language, as in the TAR, where the official language is Mandarin. In others, the language of the people is the only official language, as in Kashmir where the official language is Urdu. Similarly in Quebec the official language is French even though the rest of Canada is English speaking. In some cases, such as the Aland Islands, the people's language is the official language, but translation from and into the state's language is available for certain official business. A number of autonomous arrangements provide for several official languages so as to meet the needs of the people and the state.Such arrangements are found in Hong Kong, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Belgium, Greenland, Scotland, Tatarstan, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Puerto Rico.


To many peoples, national symbols, such as flags, seals and anthems, are a vital and critical part of their identity. Therefore, most peoples do have their own national symbolism. Prohibitions of national symbols are found only rarely, except in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, which entered into a peace agreement with Bangladesh in 1997, the TAR and Northern Ireland.


In many cases, health care and social services are provided by the people's autonomous governments. For example, Hong Kong, Liechtenstein, South Tyrol, Kashmir, Tatarstan, Scotland, San Marino, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands Antilles, Basque Country, Catalonia, Andorra and Gibraltar all have exclusive control over these functions. An unsuccessful example of people's control over health care is found in Zanzibar which has insufficient funds to adequately provide for its population's needs. As a result there have been outbreaks of epidemics due to lack of potable water and inadequate sewage and electrical systems.

While health care and social services are inherently internal affairs issues, in many cases they are a function of the state, in part, for financial reasons. In Quebec health care is within the autonomous government's jurisdiction, but Quebec has transferred responsibility for health and social services to the Canadian federal government because the financial burden was too large for the autonomous government. Similarly, the Faroese have chosen to share that power with the Danish government in order to benefit from its technology and financial resources. Others, including the people of the Aland Islands, Cook Islands, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Micronesia and Northern Ireland, have sole control over health care delivery but with the support of the state by way of subsidies.


Many autonomous governments have sole or substantial control over their economy. Development of and control of the economy is essential to building a financial base for self-governance. The study shows that there is a high correlation between an autonomous government's degree of economic control and the health of the economy, on one hand, and the level of self-governance exercised by the autonomous government on the other hand.

For example, Tatarstan's oil reserves and strong military industry positioned Tatarstan to successfully negotiate a bilateral treaty with the Russian Federation, which guarantees to Tatarstan substantial powers of self-governance not enjoyed by other members of the Russian Federation. Liechtenstein, though one of the smallest European countries, has highly profitable electronics, metal, pharmaceutical, ceramics and textile industries, as well as lucrative tourism. It is a sovereign state which has chosen a mutually beneficial associated statehood relationship with Switzerland since 1923.

Economic power can also be successfully shared. In Quebec, for example, intra-provincial business is controlled by Quebec, while inter-provincial trade is controlled by the federal government. In the Basque Country, Spain exercises control over foreign trade, banking and insurance, while the Basque autonomous government controls all other aspects of the economy. In some cases state subsidies provide autonomous governments with substantial economic control. The Aland Islands, for example, control their port and shipping industry but require and receive substantial economic aid from Finland.

Lack of a viable economy leads to dependency in many other areas, as demonstrated by the case of the Navajo Nation. Similarly, in the TAR, where the economy is controlled by the state, lack of local control over the economy, a weak economy and a low level of autonomy go hand in hand.


The power to tax is vital to the control of the economy and government services. There is a strong correlation between taxing powers and substantial autonomy. Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Micronesia, Liechtenstein, Greenland, Palestine, Puerto Rico and the Cook Islands have exclusive taxing powers. Some autonomous governments may levy taxes with respect to matters within their jurisdiction, while states often reserve the powers to tax on matters of state-wide interest. In an interesting twist, some autonomous governments use their taxing power to attract commerce by creating tax-free heavens within their jurisdiction. This is the case in Andorra. The TAR is one of the very few examples where virtually all taxing powers are within the control of the state. The TAR has the limited authority to grant tax exemptions and reductions in special situations.


Control over natural resources is an important factor in controlling one's economy and environmental integrity. Natural resources are the main source of actual or potential wealth for many peoples. By the same token, states desire full access to these resources and it is often difficult to persuade states that it is in their best interest to allow an autonomous government control over natural resources. However, the economic viability of the autonomous people is generally in the state's best interest. State concerns over potentially unsound management of natural resources can be addressed through joint regulation of natural resources linked to international standards and best practices.

Many of the highly autonomous peoples examined have control over substantial natural resources. The Aland Islanders, for example, control ownership over their land and the resources it contains and their government controls all natural resources. Such arrangements are also found in the Federated States of Micronesia and Puerto Rico. Scotland has control over its natural resources, except for oil and gas. Greenlanders have substantial control over their natural resources. However, the study, prospecting and exploitation of natural resources is jointly regulated by Denmark and the Greenland government. The people of the TAR have no control over their natural resources. This has deprived them of potential wealth and has led to environmental mismanagement.


Sound environmental policies are essential for a sustainable economy and for all beings within a territory. Further, environmental policies are of great importance to the larger state because environmental devastation often knows no boundaries. For these reasons both the people and the state usually have a stake in environmental policy.

South Tyrol, Greenland, Zanzibar, Andorra and Scotland enjoy complete control over their environmental policies. Similarly, in Hong Kong jurisdiction over environmental policy is vested in the autonomous government. In the TAR, on the other hand, the central PRC government controls environmental policy. Some autonomous arrangements, such as the Interim Agreement for Palestine, provide for adherence to international environmental standards and joint environmental impact assessments. Joint control is therefore not necessarily counterproductive, so long as it is tied to specific international standards.


Roads and other aspects of transportation can be of strategic and military importance and of vital importance to the economy. State participation in transportation may be beneficial to an autonomous government which lacks necessary financial and technological resources. However, issues of ultimate control over transportation must be considered very carefully since transportation and population influx often go hand in hand.

Only South Tyrol, Liechtenstein, the Aland and Faroe Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, Micronesia, Andorra and the Cook Islands have exclusive power over transportation. Transportation is controlled exclusively by the state in Gibraltar, Kashmir, Torres Strait Islands, the Navajo Nation, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Examples of shared control are found, for example, in the Basque Country and Catalonian where the autonomous governments have control over railways and highways which run completely within their territories.


Most states seek control over postal and telecommunications systems as they may have strategic and military significance. While most autonomous governments chose not to control these systems which are expensive to run, some exceptions exist. Hong Kong, the Cook Islands and the Netherlands Antilles, for example control their own postal and telecommunications systems. San Marino and Italy share a postal union but San Marino issues its own stamps which are collectors' items due to their small circulation and thus a major source of income.


Control over policing is essential, especially when the relationship between the people and the state has historically been hostile. In most autonomous arrangements, the people alone or jointly with the state control policing and law enforcement. For example, the Aland Islands have sole jurisdiction over their police forces and public order. So do Micronesia, Liechtenstein, Scotland, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands Antilles, Andorra and the Cook Islands.

The Faroe Islands have joint jurisdiction with the Danish government over law and order. The Faroe Islands government maintains a small police force and coast guard. The Basic Law provides Hong Kong with exclusive jurisdiction over law and order within its territory.


In most autonomous arrangements ultimate judicial control rests with the state. Sometimes, the people have jurisdiction over a limited area of justice administration. Only Micronesia, Andorra and Liechtenstein have an independent judiciary of their own with complete jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters.

Some autonomous governments have their own judiciary which is linked in various ways to the state. While Puerto Rico, for example, has its own court system based on Spanish law, rather than the English law on which the US judicial system is built, the US retains some control by allowing final judgments of the Puerto Rican court to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

In Hong Kong judicial powers are vested in an "independent" judiciary based on English common law. Hong Kong's judiciary, however, is not truly independent since the decisions of its highest court are reviewable by China's National People's Congress.

In some arrangements jurisdiction is divided. For example, the Inuit, under the 1991 Nanavut Land Claim of Canada, have control over the trial and appellate courts, while the Canadian Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction. Similarly, Scotland has civil and criminal courts but the highest level of civil appeals lies with the British court. In the TAR, the judiciary is entirely controlled by the PRC.

In negotiations for judicial powers consideration must be given to the quality of the judicial system of the state and to the traditional judicial system of the autonomous people. In other words, the legal system's process, its neutrality and its independence from political forces may be of more importance than the issue of who controls it.


Most peoples use the currency of the state. However, as with postage stamps, currency may be of symbolic significance. Some peoples have a separate currency which may be used interchangeably, at the same value, with the currency of the state, which controls the monetary policy. This includes the Holy See, Scotland, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar and the peoples of the Cook and Faroe Islands and the Netherlands Antilles. Hong Kong has its own currency which is independent of the Chinese currency.


Citizenship can be of symbolic importance and can also be linked to other important issues such as immigration, land ownership, voting rights and access to state schools.

With few exceptions, autonomous arrangements provide that the autonomous people are citizens of the state. However, Tatars are citizens of Tatarstan and citizens of the Russian Federation. Similarly, the people of Zanzibar are citizens of both Zanzibar and Tanzania. Aland Islanders are dual citizens of Aland Islands and Finland. The people of Gibraltar, while not holding their own citizenship are British nationals and British Dependent Territory citizens. Hong Kong citizens and the people of the TAR are citizens of the PRC.


Foreign policy powers can be held exclusively by the autonomous government, by the state or they can be shared. While there is often an assumption that all foreign affairs powers are matters of exclusive state concern, the study shows that foreign affairs powers can be successfully divided and shared.

The interests of the state and the autonomous governments can best be met if foreign policy powers are divided in a practical manner, so as to give the state and the autonomous government those foreign policy powers which complement the other governmental powers they each hold. Autonomous governments which enjoy a high degree of internal self-governance have a substantial interest in participating in matters of foreign policy which affect their areas of self-governance. By the same token, a state may have little interest in an area of foreign policy that is related to a governmental function within the control of the autonomous government. Thus, for example, where the state has no involvement in the economy of the autonomous people, it may have little interest in the power to enter into trade treaties affecting the autonomous territory.

San Marino, Liechtenstein, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Andorra and Tatarstan, all are economically strong entities and enjoy the highest level of control over foreign policy within the entities studied. Liechtenstein, for example, is a sovereign state, but through an autonomous arrangement has authorised Switzerland to conduct most of its diplomatic affairs. However, it retains ultimate power over its foreign policy.

Some autonomous arrangements provide for limited participation of the autonomous government in foreign policy matters. In Hong Kong, for example, foreign affairs powers are vested in the PRC. The PRC nonetheless has authorised Hong Kong to conduct certain external affairs on its own in accordance with the Basic Law. Thus, under the name of Hong Kong China, Hong Kong may develop, maintain and conclude relations and agreements with foreign states and international organisations in the areas of trade, shipping, communications, tourism, monetary affairs and culture. Hong Kong is a distinct member of a number of international organisations, including the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation.

Palestine, though not yet independent has diplomatic relations with over 100 states and enjoys UN Observer status. However, the Interim Agreement of 1995 limits the foreign affairs powers of the PLO to the areas of economic, cultural, scientific and educational agreements with other states. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are subject to Denmark's exclusive jurisdiction over foreign affairs but Greenlanders and the Faroe Islanders have the right to enter into their own trade agreements.

In many other situations, however, the autonomous government does not share in foreign policy powers on a decision making level. Some people have the right under their respective autonomy arrangements to join relevant international organisations. The Inuit, for example, are a member of the Circumpolar Conference and the Aland Islanders, the Saami and the Faroe Islanders send their own separate delegations to the Nordic Council, a regional organisation of parliamentarians from the Nordic States. This type of involvement allows the people concerned to contribute their input and views to matters of foreign relations.

In the TAR and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, foreign policy powers are held exclusively by the PRC's central government, with no involvement by the autonomous governments.


In virtually all the autonomous arrangements studied the power of defense is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the state. Hong Kong and the TAR are examples of exclusive state control over defense. Some arrangements provide for demilitarisation of the territory inhabited by the people. A major provision of the 1991 Act of Autonomy of Aland, for example, provides that the Aland Islands will remain demilitarised. Similarly, Liechtenstein has been a neutral country since 1866 and is a demilitarised zone. Other autonomous arrangements provide for a reduction in military presence.


Control over visas may have effects on economic development and tourism. Passports may be connected to issues of immigration and also may have symbolic significance for the autonomous people. Passports and visas are mostly controlled by the state. Exceptions are found in the Aland and Faroe Islands, where passports identify the people as citizens of the autonomous government and of the state. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia carry their own passports as Micronesian citizens. Hong Kong issues its own visas and passports, though Hong Kong citizens have become PRC citizens. The TAR, on the other hand, has no control over passports or visas.


In the great majority of situations studied, the state controls customs, borders and immigration of foreign citizens. These powers, though, can be exercised jointly or can be divided between the state and the autonomous government. Special attention must be paid to internal immigration and to residency requirements because immigration can have a profound impact on culture and can lead to cultural destruction, especially when citizens of the larger state immigrate into the autonomous territory.

The Cook Islands, the Holy See and the Federated States of Micronesia are exceptions as they have full control over customs, borders and all aspects of immigration. While Canada has power over borders and customs on Inuit land, the Inuit may exclude non-Inuits, Canadians and foreigners from entering their territory. Canadian military exercises require Inuit agreement. Further, the Inuit have exclusive jurisdiction over deciding who is Inuit. Similarly, the Navajo Nation controls entry into its territory as well as who may reside there.

In some situations these powers are divided between the state and the people. For example, in Palestine, Israel and Palestine jointly control the borders. The Hong Kong government administers and controls customs and immigration, subject to the ultimate jurisdiction of the PRC, while the PRC administers and controls these matters in the TAR.


Adherence to human rights standards appears to be the litmus test of autonomous arrangements. In the majority of cases where the autonomous people hold substantial control over governmental powers international human rights standards are adhered to. Some newly-independent states and autonomous arrangements, including the Cook Islands, Gibraltar, Andorra and South Africa, have taken a preventive approach by expressly incorporating international human rights standards into their constitutions. Similarly some autonomous statutes, such as the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, require the autonomous government to protect and promote human rights.

On the other hand, where the basic needs of the people are not met and where the cultural identity of the people is not furthered by the autonomous arrangements, political instability and human rights violations are prevalent. The TAR, which holds virtually no ultimate control over governmental powers, unfortunately exemplifies this problem all too clearly.

In stark contrast to the degree of autonomy now held by the TAR, His Holiness's Strasbourg proposal seeks a level of autonomy for Tibet by which Tibetans would control all governmental powers except defence and certain foreign affairs powers. While similar models have been highly successful elsewhere, the real challenge for Tibet is how to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with China and how to secure its enforcement. The latter poses a special problem because China does not have an independent judiciary which can force the Communist Party to adhere to its commitments. It is thus essential that mechanisms be explored by which potential post-agreement conflicts can be effectively addressed. This could be done through special non-modifiable constitutional provisions for conflict resolution or through international undertakings or guarantees. Tibet's interests could also be safeguarded through express contractual provisions which would make the autonomous agreement voidable at the option of the Tibetans, in case of breach of the agreement. Such provisions would act as an incentive for full implementation of the agreement. On the other hand, they would clearly allow Tibetans to terminate an agreement which does not deliver the promised control and benefits. While such matters are extremely complex and difficult to negotiate they are worth full exploration. If China truly seeks political stability, it should be willing to participate in negotiations for an enforceable agreement which provides for substantial Tibetan autonomy.

Eva Herzer is a founding member and former president of the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Younghusband: An imperialist or a luminous mystic?

An extract from Patrick French's Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer

The land called Tibet has a symbolic value in the Western mind which extends way beyond any experimental reality. Although Lost Horizon was not published until thirty years after Francis Younghusband set foot in Tibet, the mystical romanticism the book embodies bad been around since the reports of Jesuit missionaries appeared in the seventeenth century. Younghusband's obituary in the New York Times fittingly merged the man who led the British invasion with the Hollywood myth: "if as James Hilton strongly suggests in Lost Horizon, Shangri La is somewhere in Tibet rather than merely somewhere- anywhere…. Then Francis Younghusband probably came closer than anyone else to being Robert Conway".

Tibet's diplomatic isolation and physical inaccessibility helped the legend to develop. Here on the borders of British India was a huge country- the size of Western Europe-which was closed to the representatives of the King Emperor. Fantastic tales abounded among Younghusband's contemporaries of flying yogis, peculiar tortures, polyandrous practices, rare jewels, strange reincarnations, excrement pills, astral projection and even (myth of all myths) no wheels- except the prayer wheel of course. Unconquered kingdoms always hold a special excitement for great empires: at the turn of the century Tibet represented the ultimate in pure, virgin territory.

One of the few public figures to acknowledge Tibet's symbolic lure was the liberal politician Sir Henry Cotton. In an interview with the Daily News in December 1903 he stirred up a hornet's nest of imperial outrage by questioning the motives for the forthcoming invasion. When he had been in India, he said, there were countless youngmen " to whom the glamour of the Forbidden City was irresistible, to whom the romance attaching to the unknown formed the great temptation of their lives…". Cotton went on to claim that Curzon himself had fallen for the glamour of the myth, and was now'seeking the glory and world-wide fame of being "the Viceroy of India who opened Tibet and carried the British flag into Lhasa".

But far from 'unveiling' and thereby destroying the mystery of Tibet, the British invasion served to heighten it by stimulating world-wide interest. Over the decades after Younghusband's Expedition, countless travelling writers have continued ostensibly to uncover, discover and unveil this island in the sky.

The supposed transformative powers of Tibet have even been credited with changing Younghusband's own religious views and converting him to a belief in non-violence. Although it is true one of the two profound spiritual experiences of his life did occur in Tibet, he had strong mystical tendencies long before he led the invasion. There is even a surprising misapprehension, especially among admirers of Younghusband's later religious work, that the vibrations of Tibet somehow converted his Mission into a peaceful one. In a BBC radio interview the League of Nations enthusiastic and Classical scholar Gilbert Murray said that his friend Francis Younghusband 'wanted to penetrated Tibet because he so liked the Tibetans… he wanted to get into their country and talk with the lamas and to see if they had some real sympathy about religion'.

Rom Landau, a Polish-American sculptor and mystical writer, suggested in a memoir of 'Tibet Younghusband', as he liked to call him, that one particular event on the road to Lhasa was' the outstanding one of his life'.

That event took place toward the end of his mission (when) it was uncertain whether the small contingent of troops that he was leading would have to fight the Tibetans facing them. During one harrowing moment of uncertainly he suddenly 'saw' that God's will was not conquest by arms but friendship through mutual understanding…. He entered Lhasa without having to fire a shot and signed there a convention with the regent. When soon afterwards he had to leave Lhasa, he did so as a friend.

This extraordinary manipulation of the facts is typical of the way that Younghusband's identity has been colonised by his various chroniclers. Either he was a Boy's Own swashbuckling imperialist, or he was a peaceful, luminous mystic; or alternatively, he had a split personality.

The reality, as I came to perceive it, was both more complex and more human. Younghusband's experiences in Tibet were a formative part of an extraordinary journey of personal discovery and development. His rare, quirky, almost child-like view of life enabled him to go through an enormous range of apparently contradictory experiences, and encompass them all. As Jan Morris wrote in The Spectacle of Empire, Younghusband 'most nearly filled the part of Everyman' in the great imperial drama. He never stood still, never stopped changing.

Tibet in the last century

1903: British India sends Younghusband Expedition to Tibet and defeats the Tibetan Army. The 13th Dalai Lama flees to Mongolia and China.

1904: The British army leaves Tibet after signing the Lhasa Convention, according to which Tibet is to refrain from entering into treaties with foreign powers and sanction the opening of British trade marts at Gyangtse and Gartok.

1907: British and Russia render recognition to China's nominal suzerainty over Tibet. The agreement violates the British government's erstwhile recognition of Tibet as an independent country.

1910: Manchu General Chao Erfang attacks Tibet, bringing down the final curtain on the centuries-old priest-patron relationship shared between the Manchu dynasty and the Dalai Lama escapes to India.

1912: An independence campaign led by the Dalai Lama results in the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Tibet's central province.

1913: The Dalai Lama issues proclamation of Tibet's independence after the last Chinese has been driven out from Amdo and Kham. He sets in motion the process of modernisation in order to make Tibet stronger.

1914: British India, China and Tibet enter into Shimla Agreement as independent powers. Chinese refusal to ratify the treaty results in the invalidation of China's nominal suzerainty over Tibet.

1933: the 13th Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso, passes away at the age of 54. Reting Thupten Jampel Yeshe appointed to Regency.

1935: The future 14th Dalai Lama is born in Amdo, Tibet's north-eastern province, to Choekyong Tsering and Dekyi Tsering.

1939: The boy, Lhamo Dhondup, is officially recognised as the 14th Dalai Lama in a hair-cutting ceremony presided over by Reting Rinpoche.

1940: The Dalai Lama is enthroned in the Potala Palace.

1947: Tibetan government felicitates India on its newly gained independence. Tibet is represented by its own delegation in the Asian Relations Conference held in Delhi.

1948: Tibetan government dispatches a high-level trade delegation abroad, led by Shakabpa, in order to demonstrate Tibetan independence. The United Kingdom and United States issue visas on Tibetan passports in recognition of Tibet's independence status.

1949: Alarmed by the Communists' declaration to "liberate" Tibet, the Tibetan Foreign Bureau writes to the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, seeking support. The Foreign Bureau encloses the copy of a letter that has been sent to Chairman Mao, which declares that Tibet is an independent country and that the new government should observe the established boundary. In December, the Kashag sends a telegram to the British Government requesting support for admission of Tibet into the U.N.

1950: 40,000 PLA troops attack Chamdo, eastern Tibet's provincial capital. Two days later, the 8000-strong Tibetan army is defeated and Chamdo Governor Ngaboe Ngawang Jigme held hostage. Indian Foreign Ministry sends a protest letter to the Chinese government. Britain and United States express support to the Indian position.

1951: Tibetan delegation is forced to sign the infamous "17-point Agreement in Beijing, despite the delegation not having the authority to enter into any agreement. Communist China affixes a forged Tibetan seal to the agreement. Lhasa becomes a marching ground to tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers.

1952: The 10th Panchen Lama arrives in Lhasa and meets with the Dalai Lama. The forced agreement sees its implementation with the formation of a Tibet Work Committee.

1954: With the signing of Panchsheel Agreement with China, India forsakes its recognition of Tibetan sovereignty. The Dalai Lama visits Beijing with an entourage of officials and dignitaries. Increasing number of refugees start arriving in Lhasa from Kham and Amdo with stories of Communist attacks on religion and religious institutions.

1956: The Dalai Lama journeys to India for the Buddha Jayanti celebration. He discusses possible asylum with Prime Minister Nehru, but is persuaded to return home by Premier Zhou Enlai of China on the promise that Beijing will rectify the deteriorating situation in Tibet. China sets up the Preparatory Committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet (PCART) to replace the Tibetan government.

1958: The inaugural meeting of Chushi-Gangdrukis held in June with Andruk Gompo Tashi as its leader. A new yellow flag with two crossed swords is unveiled as the standard of the Tibetan guerrilla resistance movement. The CIA's first arms drop into Tibet is made in July. Tibetan guerrilla resistance movement. The CIA's first arms drop into Tibet is made in July. Tibetan guerrilla resistance has by now spread to central Tibet.

1959: Tibetan national uprising breaks out in Lhasa. China crushes the uprising killing 87,000 Tibetans. Tibetan Women's Association formed in Lhasa to challenge the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Dalai Lama leaves for India, some 80,000 Tibetans following him into exile. Chinese Premeire Zhou Enlai announces the dissolution of the Tibetan Government. The Dalai Lama repudiates the "17th - point Agreement" on reaching Tezpur in Assam, northeast state of India. He says this "agreement" was thrust upon the "Tibetan Government in the exiles of Mussorie, north India hill station, the Dalai Lama declares, "Wherever I am, accompanied by my government, the Tibetan people recognise us as the Government of Tibet." The UN General Assembly passes its first resolution on Tibet, calling for "respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people and for their distinctive cultural and religious life".

1960: Unofficial Tibetan guerrilla base established in Mustang, Nepal, to continue covert armed resistance against Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile moves to Dharamsala, north-west India. The International Commission of Jurists publishes its first report on Tibet, criticising China of "wanton killing of Tibetans" and systematic disregard for the obligations under the "17-point Agreement of 1951". The Tibetan Parliament in exile is established.

1961: The UN General Assembly passes its second resolution on Tibet, recognising the right of the Tibetan people to self-determination.

1962: 97 percent of monasteries and nunneries in the "Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)" and 99 percent of monasteries and nunneries outside the "TAR" are by now either depopulated or in ruins. Of 6,259 monasteries and nunneries in the whole of Tibet, only eight remains undestroyed. Panchen Rinpoche's "70,000 character petition" to the Chinese leadership testifies to this destruction.

1963: The Dalai Lama promulgates the democratic constitution for future Tibet.

1964: The Panchen Lama arrested in Lhasa after publicly supporting the Dalai Lama. 10,000 Tibetan students demonstrate in Lhasa against Chinese policy.

1965: The UN General Assembly passes its third resolution on Tibet, renewing its "call for the cessation of all practices which deprive the Tibetan people of the human rights and fundamental freedoms which they have always enjoyed".

1966: Mao's Cultural Revolution unleashes a further wave of death and destruction in Tibet. Panchen Rinpoche is arrested and sentenced to almost ten years of imprisonment.

1970: Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest non-governmental political organisation of the Tibetans in exile, established with its headquarters in Dharamsala.

1971: China stations the first nuclear weapons in Tsaidam Basin in Tibet's Amdo province.

1979: Following his announcement of a policy of liberation in Tibet, Deng Xioping meets Gyalo Thondup, elder brother of the Dalai Lama, in Beijing and tells him that China is willing to discuss and resolve with Tibetans all issues other than the complete independence of Tibet. The Dalai Lama sends the first fact-finding delegation to Tibet.

1980: The second fact-finding delegation visits Tibet. The third fact-finding delegation visits Tibet in the same year in July, while the fourth fact-finding delegation visits northeastern Tibet five years later.

1981: The Dalai Lama writes to Deng Xiaoping,stating that the three delegations have found the conditions in Tibet sad and that "genuine efforts must be made to resolve the problem of Tibet"" CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang replies with "China's Five-point Policy towards the Dalai Lama" which practically seeks to reduce the Tibet issue to the question of the Dalai Lama's personal status.

1984: The three-member exploratory delegation visits Beijing for another round of talks, but without success in achieving substantive negotiations. Tibetan Government-in-exile announces the death of 1.2 million Tibetans as a direct result of Chinese invasion and occupation.

1987: The Dalai Lama addresses the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus and puts forward his Five-Point-Peace-Plan for resolving the Tibet issue through negotiations with the Chinese government. Two major independence demonstrations erupts in Lhasa a month later.

1988: Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Dalai Lama elaborates on the Five-Point-Peace-Plan and proposes talks leading to a "self- governing democratic political entity" for all the three provinces of Tibet. This entity, the Dalai Lama says, will be "in association with the People's Republic of China" and that Chinese government can continue to "remain responsible for Tibet's foreign policy and defence".

1989: The 10th Panchen Lama passes away while on a visit to Shigatse. A few days before his mysterious death, he publicly states that Chinese rule in Tibet has brought more harm than benefit. In answer to three years of protest demonstrations in Lhasa, all brutally cracked down, China finally imposes Martial Law in Tibet. The Dalai Lama wins the Nobel Peace Prize in October.

1990: The Dalai Lama introduces sweeping democratic reforms in the exile administration, empowering the popularly-elected Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (ATPD) to elect the Cabinet Ministers of the exile government.

1991: The ATPD adopts a new democratic constitution for the Tibetan Government-in-exile. US President George Bush signs into law, a congressional resolution declaring Tibet an occupied country.

1992: In the "Guidelines for Future Tibet's Polity and Basic Features of its Constitution", the Dalai Lama states that in a future, free Tibet, he will relinquish his powers in favour of a popularity elected government.

1995: The Dalai Lama announces Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year-old child in Tibet, as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. China spirits away Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and enthrones an alternative candidate, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the 11th Panchen Lama. The whereabouts of the Dalai Lama recognised boy and his parents remain unknown to this day.

1996: China begins Strike Hard, Patriotic Re-education and Spiritual Civilisation campaigns, all aimed at coercing the Tibetan people, especially the monks and nuns, to renounce their faith in the Dalai Lama.

1997: The Dalai Lama visits Taiwan to a tumultuous welcome and a high-profile meeting with President Lee Tang-hui. The US Administration creates a new post in the State Department to oversee and report on Tibetan Affairs. Greg Craig is appointed the first Co-ordinator for Tibet.

1998: Six members of Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) undertake an unto-death hunger strike in New Delhi to pressure the UN to implement the recommendations of the International Commission of Jurist' 1997 report on Tibet. One TYC supporter, Thupten Ngodup, dies from self-immolation.

1999: Three members of TYC undertake an unto-death fast in Geneva to pressure the 55th session of the UNHRD into censuring China on its human rights practices in Tibet.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Call for Tibetan Independence

As a son of a Lhasa-Newar, I too do feel that Tibet is never a part of China and find myself penning this feature article against the brutal occupation of Tibet. To put it frankly, Tibet is an independent sovereign non-aligned democratic kingdom. I am totally against the tyrannical Sinicization on Tibet instilled by the Communist Regime. The world should sharply help the innocent Tibetans remove Maoism from the Shangri-La. We are just aware that the authentic philosophy of Maoism belongs to China alone and does not apply to Tibet at all. Autonomy is not what the Tibetans demand but solid independence against the Chinese imperialism. Today Tibet is a Chinese colony; tomorrow it shall be liberated. Don't worry ! God shall help us all for a free Tibet. So let us all pray together for that particular optimism. It shall consume a bit of time of course.

Some say a long period back both Nepal and Tibet had been paying tribute to the Chinese Emperor back in Beijing. If that be the sheer case, why does Nepal alone remain separate and Tibet only annexed to the Chinese territory ? This is indeed a mockery towards a weak landlocked state ! What Beijing has exercised absolutely tallies with the old policy of "Might is right" which I am pretty sure won't last long. There arises a vast difference between mainland China and the Himalayan buffer-state of Tibet. The principal points that differ in a sound method include: history, geography, language, scripts, religion, culture, tradition, attire, money, flag, map, politics and the wonder as a world heritage site. As such Tibet is in a fitting position to be recognized a separate nation. They happen to pass through the formalities which are to be traced mandatory for any decent approach to the center of the United Nations Organization (U.N.O.).

The last Chinese Emperor, Dr. Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai Shek belonging to the Kumintang Regime all had been recognizing Tibet and Nepal as independent nations. What actually counts is a post-war situation. Past is past and no one should dare or bother to consider events that took place before Christ. It is very obvious to notice that China appears to be a greedy country practicing dirty principles only. Their stubborn gluttony wants to grab Taiwan also --- a republic which is no doubt purely a free island. The Maoists are highly obliged to quit not only Tibet but Manchuria as well.

A gloomy relation must have existed between India and China in the late forties. A new government took over India in 1947 with late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as its leader. Two years after a new government also took over China with Comrade Mao Tse-Tung as its leader. Well, Nehru proceeded to Beijing in 1949 and had a V.I.P. discussion with Mao face-to-face at a personal level with only two of them in the private chamber. China was to get hold of Tibet while India to get hold of Nepal. The political negotiation was duly sanctioned; both willfully agreed on the matter of top conspiracy. This also indicates that Tibet resumes not a part of China at all. Why did not Mao fire Nehru ? Instead the former gave in to his encouragement. With someone pushing the Chinese, Beijing did mobilize and started intruding the Tibetan territory most unlawfully since 1951 and in 1959 completely took over. Tibet is the tallest tableland in the globe. As the highest plateau on earth topographically it is also mountainous, very bitter and heavily windy. Thus it took nine long years for the Red Guards to capture it. Not so easy ! But down south India failed in occupying Nepal. They shall keep on lagging behind simply because Nepal is never a part of India. No way ! She fetched her earnest membership in the United Nations Organization in 1955 although had attempted or appealed in 1949 itself. A shame on both --- address it Indo-China affiliation or Sino-India affiliation. Both are merciless sinners for sure !

The majority of the Chinese was seen within the Tibetan soils right after 1959. Why had only a minority of them been living on the Tibetan grounds if Tibet was truly a part of China ? Concerning any bilateral relation with Tibet, the majority of foreigners who had been residing in the alpine kingdom for many centuries having Tibetan wives are none other than the Nepalese alone. Even amongst the Nepalese, strictly speaking, that particular Buddhist community having tied the nuptial knots is the Newar whose mother tongue sounds Tibeto-Burmese in nature. This strongly convinces that Tibet is also respectfully nestled in South Asia. All can clearly witness ten liberal countries to be mapped in South Asia including: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Ceylon, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet. China belongs to North Asia or the Far East, a profound conviction that nobody can deny. In other words North Asia is counted from the Sino-Tibetan border, you see. Justice never occurred in Tibet. Otherwise one Khampa can easily pin down four Chinese straight. Ten Red Guards with modern rifles surround a single Khampa --- what can he possibly do ? This is not fair ! Tibet is bound to get demilitarized as she is too a “Zone of Peace.” Let it not remain a lost horizon always.

The Chinese should either bear the guts to seize Nepal as well or to quit Tibet straight. One or the other ! Teach them to go the square way. The Chinese invasion of Tibet is but a serious offence against human rights. Down with the aggressive Reds ! They have hindered any social feelings; they have violated the Asian solidarity. I would like to congratulate the Chinese in a hearty manner for the relevant progress achieved in China proper, but condemn them for the direct occupation of Tibet seen evidently which their ancestors have never tried before. China, Tibet, Nepal and India constitute as four brothers, four sisters of Asia. They are indeed independent countries geographically and should live in perfect harmony ever after.

The Americans of the United States seem to appear cowards on Tibet issue. They helped liberate Kuwait, but why not help Tibet as well. Some comment Washington D.C. has ignored the case due to the dearth of gas supply. (Many have disclosed this agenda.) So what ! They have a lot of gold, musk, wool, etc. This is an unacceptable excuse whatsoever. It would be very absurd and too foolish as well to have Washington D.C. go after oil countries only. Chase the Yankees to love the Shangri-La. An ally party of multi-nation is desired to support the DALAI LAMA and fight off the obnoxious Reds. The U.N.O. is too acting a hypocrite instead of paying ardent attention to the real cause of the Tibetan society. Taiwan and Tibet must both be offered the due opportunities to enter the U.N.O. and obtain valid membership officially. It is high time for her to reveal the sublime truth. Dormant Tibet will soon be resurrected. Glory be the Roof of the World !

Amrit R. Tuladhar
Lost Horizon

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Culture Vulture: Where is Humility?

"Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." I have been governed by this these words, particularly after I brushed up on the fundamentals of conflict resolution: make observations, not judgments. However, at this moment, I just could not take my eyes off the prevailing "behavioral pattern" of the present crop of Tibetan youth--particularly with respect to the presentation of self to others.

As the saying goes, "you can take Tibetans out of Tibet, but you cannot take Tibet out of Tibetans." The Tibetan struggle as such will last until the last man standing. The real concern therefore may be the question of sustaining the Tibetan(ess) of the Tibetan people. In fact, the Tibetan struggle for freedom is often defined as a struggle to retain the Tibetan identity.

If one were to probe further, one may conclude that the mainstay of a culture is not its external manifestations--say, food, dress, customs, etc. The essence of a culture is in its visceral composition--like the spiritual and ethical (moral) values that are inherited from the forebears. And if the Tibetan cultural identity is to be sustained, the values that are supposed to be embedded in our genes, the values that supposedly shape our actions--deeds, words, omissions and desires--must survive in situ.

My contention, or observation, is therefore how the youth today, including folks of my age, are inculcating or coping with those values. A conspicuous element in the pantheon of Tibetan values could be the emphasis that we have traditionally put on the virtue of humility. This is evident from the rich array of sayings common in Tibetan parlance: a fruit-bearing tree is always hunched; the radiance of gold buried beneath the earth, lights the sky above, and so on.

A typical example could be how our elders usually give a talk--they always begin with a bit of self-deprecation: "I am not qualified enough to speak on this topic. My knowledge and experience are very limited. However, now that so and so has commanded me to speak on this matter, I shall venture some of my thoughts, hoping that they may have some use for you", or something to that effect.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, expressions of humility--like "I wouldn't know (much)", or "My knowledge is limited", etc.--appear to have become passé for the larger part of youth today, including those of my generation. Such decorum is treated as outlandish, totally out of sync with the newfound society—or a chore dismissed as the lingering residual of a bygone era when "public speaking was a refined art that demanded close attention to the laws of rhetoric and the niceties of delivery."

The young and upcoming are not without compelling reasons for this shortage of humility. To begin with, they are eking their living out in a world where there is no such thing as a free lunch--a world of one-upmanship, in which only those who are competent in marketing themselves are entitled to the highest of perks--a world where the operating principle is often not the survival of the fittest, but that of the loudest. It thus necessitates a lot of pruning and posturing. People as such take great pains in perfecting their skills of exuding an aura of all-knowing erudition, beginning with that trademark "I-know-what-I-am-doing" face. The compunction of maintaining a false pretence, I guess, never weighs heavily upon us.

Returning to how the grownups began their talks by playing themselves down, I caught hold of a book, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking. The blurb on its cover says, "The most brilliant book of its kind"--reprinted 50 times, translated into 11 languages. Expounding on how to express yourself logically, persuasively and convincingly, the author, Dale Carnegie, noted that, "The surest way to antagonize an audience is to indicate that you consider yourself above them...On the other hand, modesty inspires confidence and goodwill. You can be modest without being apologetic. Your audience will like and respect you for suggesting your limitations as long as you show you are determined to do your best."

The author cites Edmund S. Muskie, then US Senator from Maine, as demonstrating this in a speech. "I approach my assignment this morning with many doubts," he began. "In the first place, I am conscious of the professional qualification of this audience, and question the wisdom of exposing my poor talents to your critical view...Facing these doubts, I feel very much like the mosquito who found himself unexpectedly in a nudist colony. I don't know where to begin." Indeed, writes Carnegie, one of the best ways for a speaker to endear himself to the audience is to play himself down. So much for our elders being outlandish and out of sync!

If this article sounds too preachy, or prissy for that matter, it is not meant to be. I have made a habit out of always learning my life lessons the harder way. The lesson on modesty, which I had while in high school, was particularly the hardest of all--at times when my lack of humility begins to turn into hubris, the incident churns up in my mind scene by scene, making me cringe with embarrassment. That year, after the winter tests, I was home on vacation. My test performance was good, in fact so good that I went cock-a-hoop, literally jumping for joy. And I seldom missed a chance to brag about it before my friends and family. One day, tired perhaps of my infantile braggadocio, my elder brother asked me,

"So, how are you in math?"

"First class," I bragged--I was the math topper.

"How much did you score?"

"30," I said.

The fact that I was the topper was ridiculously meaningless, for just as the rest of the class, I had failed that test. To pass a test one must score at least 33 out of 100 points. But that minute detail never bothered me. All I cared for was "I am the topper." Then, just as my elation had subsided, my brother told me what was to be indelibly etched in my memory--"You see Dhundup, there are three kinds of first class: The first class of the first class; the first class of the second class; and the first class of the third class. And you my friend, are the first class of the third class." Period!

Dhondup Gyalpo

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Speaking of beggars

IF THERE IS such a thing as a bumper sale on acquiring meritorious karma, it is on the 15th day of the fourth Saka month of the Tibetan lunar calendar - marked as the day of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and parinirvana. Tibetans believe that any meritorious deed performed on this sacred day yields far greater results than those on any ordinary day. It is equivalent to buying one, getting many thousands free. Because of this multiplying effect, even those who are usually lackadaisical in exerting themselves for meritorious karma are tempted to make a stab at chanting mantras, circumambulating temples, or simply doling out alms to beggars.

As was usual every year, when I went for linkhor on this auspicious day - which this year fell on 31 May - a long sprawl of beggars dotted the entire length of the ring of the path girding the hill of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's residence and the Tsuglakhang. The army of beggars reminded me of a model paragraph that I had mugged up at school. It went something like: There are two kinds of beggar: voluntary beggars, and those who are victims of misfortune. Its punch line was that we should keep the first type at an arm's length, while being sympathetic to the latter.

As I started doling out one rupee coin to a select few of the hapless lot, including the children and the lepers, the moral of that paragraph never bothered me - not even when one of the "voluntary beggars" asked me, "Babu, do you want change...for 50, 100...?" He might have raised the stakes to 500, had I kept listening to him!

I went on, but my pockets dried up even before I had gone half-way. For the rest of my linkhor, whenever someone raised their bowl towards me, their expectant looks made me feel ill at ease, but did not bother me much. Years of experience, I guessed, had made them professionals in the business of begging, for they knew whom to nag and whom to ignore.

As I proceeded a little further, I noted that the beggars were tribes or clans from certain impoverished areas of the neighboring states. None of them were Tibetan - not even the few junkies that we occasionally bumped into at McLeod Gunj had marked their presence there. But strange as it may sound, I felt no pride in that thought.

My reason takes me to a noted writer-columnist—Kushwant Singh. Once when he appeared as guest on the TV show "Movers & Shakers" (the Indian version of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"), Mr Singh was asked why most of his jokes are about his Sikh community. He responded by saying that only those who have full faith, confidence and pride in their people are capable of making fun of themselves. As a concrete proof of the Sikh community's self-pride, he then said, "Have you ever seen a [turbaned] Punjabi begging on the road?"

Mr Kushwant Singh, I really envy you on that, for I cannot say the same for my people. Beggars today are a common sight in all over Tibet. The images of Lhasa on this 15th day of Saka month showed its streets choked with thousands of Tibetan beggars. The capital city of the Land of Snows, a land that has never in its entire history known something remotely as a famine, has been reduced to dire poverty in just about half a century of Chinese occupation.

Even as China continues to dazzle the world with its economic boom, Tibet appears to have been shut out of it - if the growing number of Tibetan beggars is any indication. A report published in 1998 quoted a beggar saying that there were more than 3,000 beggars in Lhasa. The figure now is 8,000, according to media reports. This figure also includes an increasing number of Chinese beggars. Since the Gormo-Lhasa railway hit the tracks - which was supposed to enable Tibetan beggars to beg in rich Chinese cities - it has instead opened a floodgate of Chinese migrant workers, prostitutes and beggars into Tibet.

The new influx of Chinese beggars means the daily ordeal of Tibetan beggars has gotten a lot worse. A veteran Indian journalist, Vijay Kranti, following a visit to Tibet, once noted that the domination of Chinese people is visible even in the case of beggars. "When you visited the Lhasa Jokhang temple, the best sites for begging were always allotted to the Chinese beggars, while the Tibetan beggars were driven to the periphery."

The Tibetan people's ability to be self-reliant is articulated in many of our common adages: A Tibetan who has even a nail-sized piece of land will never die of starvation. However, given the years of Chinese colonial economic policies, coupled with the great influx of Chinese migrants, an overwhelming number of Tibetans in all walks of life have been edged out to extreme penury. For them, begging is not an option, but a necessity of the last resort.

Dhondup Gyalpo

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Epilogue to LOST HORIZON

-- James Hilton

It was in Delhi that I met Rutherford again. We had been guests at a Viceregal dinner-party, but distance and ceremonial kept us apart until the turbaned flunkeys handed us our hats afterwards. “Come back to my hotel and have a drink,” he invited.

We shared a cab along the arid miles between the Lutyens still-life and the warm, palpitating motion picture of Old Delhi. I knew from the newspapers that he had just returned from Kashgar. He was one of those well-groomed reputations that get the most out of everything; any usual holiday acquires the character of an exploration, and though the explorer takes care to do nothing really original, the public does not know this, and he capitalizes the full value of a hasty impression. It had not seemed to me, for instance, that Rutherford’s journey, as reported in the press, had been particularly epoch-making; the buried cities of Khotan were old stuff, if any one remembered Stein and Sven Hedin. I knew Rutherford well enough to chaff him about this, and he laughed. “Yes, the truth would have made a better story,” he admitted cryptically.

We went to his hotel room and drank whisky. “So you did search for Conway?” I suggested when the moment seemed propitious.

“Search is much too strong a word,” he answered. “You can’t search a country half as big as Europe for one man. All I can say is that I have visited places where I was prepared to come across him or to get news of him. His last message, you remember, was that he had left Bangkok for the northwest. There were traces of him up-country for a little way, and my own opinion is that he probably made for the tribal districts on the Chinese border. I don’t think he’d have cared to enter Burma, where he might have run up against British officials. Any how, the definite trail, you may say, peters out somewhere in Upper Siam, but of course I never expected to follow it that far.”

“You thought it might be easier to look for the valley of Blue Moon?”

“Well, it did seem as if it might be a more fixed proposition. I suppose you glanced at that manuscript of mine?”

“Much more than glanced at it. I should have returned it, by the way, but you left no address.”

Rutherford nodded. “I wonder what you made of it?”

“I thought it very remarkable---assuming, of course, that it’s all quite genuinely based on what Conway told you.”

“I give you my solemn word for that. I invented nothing at all---indeed, there’s even less of my own language in it than you might think. I’ve got a good memory, and Conway always had a way of describing things. Don’t forget that we had about twenty-four hours of practically continuous talk.”

“Well, as I said, it’s all very remarkable.”

He leaned back and smiled. “If that’s all you‘re going to say, I can see I shall have to speak for myself. I suppose you consider me a rather credulous person. I don’t really think I am. People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little. I was certainly taken with Conway’s story---in more ways than one---and that was why I felt interested enough to put as many tabs on it as I could---apart from the chance of running up against the man himself.”

He went on, after lighting a cigar. “It meant a good deal of odd journeying, but I like that sort of thing, and my publishers can’t object to a travel book once in a while. Altogether I must have done some thousands of miles---Baskul, Bangkok, Chung-Kiang, Kashgar---I visited them all, and somewhere inside the area between them the mystery lives. But it’s a pretty big area, you know, and all my investigations didn’t touch more than the fringe of it---or of the mystery either, for that matter. Indeed, if you want the actual down-right facts about Conway’s adventures, so far as I’ve been able to verify them, all I can tell you is that he left Baskul on the twentieth of May and arrived in Chung-Kiang on the fifth of October. And the last we know of him is that he left Bangkok again on the third of February. All the rest is probability, possibility, guesswork, myth, legend, whatever you like to call it.”

“So you didn’t find anything in Tibet?”

“My dear fellow, I never got into Tibet at all. The people up at Government House wouldn’t hear of it; it’s as much as they’ll do to sanction an Everest expedition, and when I said I thought of wandering about the Kuen-Luns on my own, they looked at me rather as if I’d suggested writing a life of Gandhi. As a matter of fact, they knew more than I did. Strolling about Tibet isn’t a one-man job; it needs an expedition properly fitted out and run by some one who knows at least a word or two of the language. I remember when Conway was telling me his story I kept wondering why there was all that fuss about waiting for porters---why didn’t they simply walk off? I wasn’t very long in discovering. The Government people were quite right---all the passports in the world couldn’t have got me over the Kuen-Luns. I actually went as far as seeing them in the distance, on a very clear day---perhaps fifty miles off. Not many Europeans can claim even that.”

“Are they so very forbidding?”

“They looked just like a white frieze on the horizon, that was all. At Yarkand and Kashgar I questioned every one I met about them, but it was extraordinary how little I could discover. I should think they must be the least-explored range in the world. I had the luck to meet an American traveler who had once tried to cross them, but he’d been unable to find a pass. There are passes, he said, but they are terrifically high and unmapped. I asked him if he thought it possible for a valley to exist of the kind Conway described, and he said he wouldn’t call it impossible, but he thought it not very likely---on geological grounds, at any rate. Then I asked if he had ever heard of a cone-shaped mountain almost as high as the highest of the Himalayas, and his answer to that was rather intriguing. There was a legend, he said, about such a mountain, but he thought himself there could be no foundation for it. There were even rumors, he added, about mountains actually higher than Everest, but he didn’t himself give credit to them. ‘I doubt if any peak in the Kuen-Luns is more than twenty-five thousand feet, if that’ he said. But he admitted that they had never been properly surveyed.

“Then I asked him what he knew about Tibetan lamaseries---he’d been in the country several times---and he gave me just the usual accounts that one can read in all the books. They weren’t beautiful places, he assured me, and the monks in them were generally corrupt and dirty. ‘Do they live long?’ I asked, and he said yes, they often did, if they didn’t die of some filthy disease. Then I went boldly to the point and asked if he’d ever heard legends of extreme longevity among the lamas. ‘Heaps of them,’ he answered: ‘it’s one of the stock yarns you hear everywhere, but you can’t verify them. You’re told that some foul-looking creature has been walled up in a cell for a hundred years, and he certainly looks as if he might have been, but of course you can’t demand his birth certificate.’ I asked him if he thought they had any occult or medicinal way of prolonging life or preserving youth, and he said they were supposed to have a great deal of very curious knowledge about such things, but he suspected that if you come to look into it, it was rather like the Indian rope trick---always something that somebody else had seen. He did say, however, that the lamas appeared to have odd powers of bodily control. I’ve watched them,’ he said, ‘sitting by the edge of a frozen lake, stark naked, with a temperature below zero and in a tearing wind, while their servants break the ice and wrap sheets round them that have been dipped in the water. They do this a dozen times or more, and the lamas dry the sheets on their own bodies. Keeping warm by will-power, so one imagines, though that’s a poor sort of explanation.’ ”

Rutherford helped himself to more drink. “But of course, as my American friend admitted, all that had nothing much to do with longevity. It merely showed that the lamas had somber tastes in self-discipline…So there we were, and probably you’ll agree with me that all the evidence, so far, was less than you’d hang a dog on.”

I said it was certainly inconclusive, and asked if the names “Karakal” and “Shangri-La” had meant anything to the American.

“Not a thing---I tried him with them. After I’d gone on questioning him for a time, he said: ‘rankly, I’m not keen on monasteries---indeed, I once told a fellow I met in Tibet that if I went out of my way at all, it would be to avoid them, not pay them a visit.’ That chance remark of his gave me a curious aide, and I asked him when this meeting in Tibet had taken place. ‘Oh, a long time ago,’ he answered, ‘before the War---in nineteen eleven, I think it was.’ I badgered him for further details, and he gave them, as well as he could remember. It seemed that he’d been traveling then for some American geographical society, with several colleagues, porters, and so on---in fact, a pukka expedition. Somewhere near the Kuen-Luns he met this other man, a Chinese who was being carried in a chair by native bearers. The fellow turned out to speak English quite well, and strongly recommended them to visit a certain lamasery in the neighborhood---he even offered to be the guide there. The American said they hadn’t time and weren’t interested, and that was that.” Rutherford went on, after an interval: “I don’t suggest that it means a great deal. When a man tries to remember a casual incident that happened twenty years ago, you can’t build too much on it. But it offers an attractive speculation.”

“Yes, though if a well equipped-expedition had accepted the invitation, I don’t see how they could have been detained at the lamasery against their will.”

“Oh, quite. And perhaps it wasn’t Shangri-La at all.”

We thought it over, but it seemed too hazy for argument, and I went on to ask if there had been any discoveries at Baskul.

“Baskul was hopeless, and Peshwar was worse. Nobody could tell me anything, except that the kidnapping of the aeroplane did undoubtedly take place. They weren’t keen even to admit that---it’s an episode they’re not proud of.”

“And nothing was heard of the plane afterwards?”

“Not a word of a rumor, or of its four passengers either. I verified, however, that it was capable of climbing high enough to cross the ranges. I also tried to trace that fellow Barnard, but I found his past history so mysterious that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he really were Chalmers Bryant, as Conway said. After all, Bryant’s complete disappearance in the midst of the big hue and cry was rather amazing.”

“Did you try to find anything about the actual kidnapper?”

“I did. But again it was hopeless. The Air Force man whom the fellow had knocked out and impersonated had since been killed, so one promising line of enquiry was closed. I even wrote to a friend of mine in America who runs an aviation school, asking if he had had any Tibetan pupils lately, but his reply was prompt and disappointing. He said he couldn’t differentiate Tibetans from Chinese, and he had had about fifty of the latter---all training to fight the Japs. Not much chance there, you see. But I did make one rather quaint discovery---and which I could have made just as easily without leaving London. There was a German professor at Jena about the middle of the last century who took to globe-trotting and visited Tibet in 1887. He never came back, and there was some story about him having been drowned in fording a river. His name was Friedrich Meister.”

“Good heavens---one of the names Conway mentioned!”

“Yes---though it may only have been coincidence. It doesn’t prove the whole story, by any means, because the Jena fellow was born in 1845. Nothing very exciting about that.”

“But it’s odd,” I said.

‘Oh, yes, it’s odd enough.”

“Did you succeed in tracing any of the others?”

“No. It’s a pity I hadn’t a longer list to work on. I couldn’t find any record of a pupil of Chopin’s called Briac, though of course that doesn’t prove that there wasn’t one. Conway was pretty sparing with his names, when you come to think about it---out of fifty odd lamas supposed to be on the premises he only gave us one or two. Perrault and Henschell, by the way, proved equally impossible to trace.”

“How about Mallinson?” I asked. “Did you try to find out what happened to him? And that girl---the Chinese girl?”

“My dear fellow, of course I did. The awkward part was, as you perhaps gathered from the manuscript, that Conway’s story ended at the moment of leaving the valley with the porters. After that he either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell what happened---perhaps he might have done, mind you, if there’d be more time. I feel that we can guess at some sort of tragedy. The hardships of the journey would be perfectly appalling, apart from the risk of brigandage or even treachery among their own escorting party. Probably we shall never know exactly what did occur, but it seems tolerably certain that Mallinson never reached China. I made all sorts of enquiries, you know. First of all I tried to trace details of books, et cetera, sent in large consignments across the Tibetan frontier, but at all the likely places, such as Shanghai and Pekin, I drew complete blanks. That, of course, doesn’t count for much, since the lamas would doubtless see that their methods of importation were kept secret. Then I tried at Tatsien-Fu. It’s a weird place, a sort of world’s-end market town, deuced difficult to get at, where the Chinese coolies from Yunnan transfer their loads of tea to the Tibetans. You can read about it in my new book when it comes out. Europeans don’t often get as far. I found the people quite civil and courteous, but there was absolutely no record of Conway’s party arriving at all.”

“So how Conway himself reached Chung-Kiang is still unexplained?”

“The only conclusion is that he wandered there, just as he might have wandered anywhere else. Anyhow, we’re back in the realm of hard facts when we get to Chung-Kiang, that’s something. The nuns at the mission hospital were genuine enough, and so, for that matter, was Sieveking’s excitement on the ship when Conway played that pseudo-Chopin.” Rutherford paused and then added reflectively: “It’s really an exercise in the balancing of probabilities, and I must say the scales don’t bump very emphatically either way. Of course if you don’t accept Conway’s story, it means that you doubt either his veracity or his sanity---one may as well be frank.”

He paused again, as if inviting a comment, and I said: “As you know, I never saw him after the War, but people said he was a good deal changed by it.”

Rutherford answered: “Yes, and he was, there’s no denying the fact. You can’t subject a mere boy to three years of intense physical and emotional stress without tearing something to tatters. People would say, I suppose, that he came through without a scratch. But the scratches were there---on the inside.”

We talked for a little time about the War and its effects on various people, and at length he went on: “But there’s just one more point that I must mention---and perhaps in some ways the oddest of all. It came out during my enquiries at the mission. They all did their best for me there, as you can guess, but they couldn’t recollect much, especially as they’d been so busy with a fever epidemic at the time. One of the questions I put was about the manner Conway had reached the hospital first of all---whether he had presented himself alone, or had been found ill and been taken there by some one else. They couldn’t exactly remember---after all, it was a long while back---but suddenly, when I was on the point of giving up the cross-examination, one of the nuns remarked quite casually, ‘I think the doctor said he was brought here by a woman.’ That was all she could tell me, and as the doctor himself had left the mission, there was no confirmation to be had on the spot.

“But having got so far, I wasn’t in any mood to give up. It appeared that the doctor had gone to a bigger hospital in Shanghai, so I took the trouble to get his address and call on him there. It was just after the Jap air-raiding, and things were pretty grim. I’d met the man before during my first visit to Chung-Kiang, and he was very polite, though terribly overworked---yes, terribly’s the word, for, believe me, the air-raids on London by the Germans were just nothing to what the Japs did to the native parts of Shanghai. Oh, yes, he said instantly, he remembered the case of the Englishman who had lost his memory. Was it true he had been brought to the mission hospital by a woman? I asked. Oh, yes, certainly by a woman, a Chinese woman. Did he remember anything about her? Nothing, he answered, except that she had been ill of the fever herself, and had died almost immediately…. Just then there was an interruption---a batch of wounded were carried in and packed on stretchers in the corridors---the wards were all full---and I didn’t care to go on taking up the man’s time, especially as the thudding of the guns at Woosung was a reminder that he would still have plenty to do. When he came back to me, looking quite cheerful even amidst such ghastliness, I just asked him one final question, and I dare say you can guess what it was. ‘About that Chinese woman,’ I said. ‘Was she young?’”

Rutherford flicked his cigar as if the narration had excited him quite as much as he hoped it had me. Continuing, he said: “The little fellow looked at me solemnly for a moment, and then answered in that funny clipped English that the educated Chinese have---‘Oh, no, she was most old---most old of any one I have ever seen.’”

We sat for a long time in silence, and then talked again of Conway as I remembered him, boyish and gifted and full of charm, and of the War that had altered him, and of so many mysteries of time and age and of the mind, and of the little Manchu who had been “most old”, and of the strange ultimate dream of Blue Moon. “Do you think he will ever find it?” I asked.

April, 1933

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